I am beyond jazzed to share this amazing behind-the-scenes look at the making of Wild Mountain Thyme. This article was written by long-time Stage 32 member and producer Bradley Gallo (Green Hornet & Kato, Wild Mountain Thyme, Them The Follow, The Call).
Bradley hosts Q&A series right here on Stage 32 called "Dear Bradley" where members submit their filmmaking/producing questions directly to Bradley for advice. If you have any questions for Bradley - I encourage you to type them in the comments below!
Without further ado, I am thrilled to share Bradley's first-hand experience producing Wild Mountain Thyme. Take it away Bradley!
It’s hard to believe that this fall, it’ll already be two years since we were in Ireland, shooting John Patrick Shanley’s romantic comedy WILD MOUNTAIN THYME. For so many people involved in the shoot, it would be the last time they’d be on a set before COVID-19 struck.
When WMT was released on PVOD and in theaters last December, everyone involved with the project was, naturally, overjoyed. Here was the opportunity – finally! – after months in lockdown, for audiences to delight in Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, and Christopher Walken’s offbeat characters, and for everyone to flee the harsh reality of 2020 for the warm embrace of a modern fairy tale – if only for a few hours.
Still of Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan in "Wild Mountain Thyme"
Apart from the incredible cast performances and the entirely unique tone of this film, I was most excited for audiences to experience a slice of what I was lucky enough to call my office for a few months in 2019: Ireland!
Unless you’ve seen it for yourself, it’s a place that’s charm, vibrancy, and verdancy can’t quite be put into words. This posed an exciting challenge for us as producers and filmmakers: how to convey the magic of sprawling green fields, rolling hills, and farms steeped in history, while also keeping the minute nuances of Rosemary (Emily Blunt) and Anthony’s (Jamie Dornan) emotional arcs center stage? Luckily, we had help here.
The people of County Mayo, the region of Western Ireland where we shot, are some of the kindest, funniest, and most welcoming you’ll meet. Their decidedly Irish sensibilities naturally crept into the production, imbuing our final product with a joy that I think comes across onscreen.
In turn, we brought business to an area that’s usually very quiet in October and November, the rainiest season in Ireland. Ballina and Crossmolina (the towns in County Mayo where we shot) are over 3 hours away from Dublin, and not obvious tourist destinations to those unfamiliar with Ireland. Because of this, even a modestly budgeted project like WMT can have a lasting impact on the area’s local economy.
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME is based on John Patrick Shanley’s 2014 play Outside Mullingar, about the sale of his family’s farm in Ireland. As an Irish-American, the production of WMT was a very personal experience for him as a director. He was adamant that the characters’ appearances and mannerisms, as well as the spaces they move in, all reflect what life is really like on a family farm in Ireland.
For our Irish characters, this meant making costume, hair, and makeup choices that were functional above all else, something that Emily Blunt in particular gave a lot of attention to. It’s very fun to see Rosemary, Anthony, and Tony’s (Christopher Walken) farm workwear violently clash with Adam’s (Jon Hamm) white trench coat and Rolls Royce, when he comes blowing into town as Anthony’s suave American cousin.
We also took care to incorporate the more unglamorous parts of Irish country living into our production design. When watching the film, you’ll notice that the interior spaces feel lived-in and cramped, to the point of claustrophobic at times. Without spoiling anything, this allows the tension in the more confrontational scenes between Rosemary, Anthony, and Tony to simmer, until it boils over altogether.
With Jamie Dornan on the Set of "Wild Mountain Thyme"
In our quest for authenticity, we were fortunate to have two incredible Irish actors, Jamie Dornan and Dearbhla Molloy, in our main cast. Dearbhla, who plays Aoife Muldoon, revised the same role she played in Outside Mullingar.
Originally from Dublin, Dearbhla is the consummate professional with a storied career both in film and on stage. Jamie, who grew up near Belfast in Northern Ireland, has a body of work that speaks for itself. He’s incredibly pensive and introspective, yet also very open and down to earth: a decidedly Irish combination.
Of course, there are always some…unintended outcomes when trying to get the community you’re shooting in to translate to the screen. I’m talking about the Irish accents! We were stunned by the extreme reactions that viewers, both Irish and non-Irish, had to the characters’ accents – some from just seeing the trailer! But at the end of the day, we all got quite a kick out of the many articles and tweets that the accents spawned, and we were happy to help temporarily take everyone’s minds off of COVID for a bit.
Still of Emily Blunt and Jon Hamm in "Wild Mountain Thyme"
Since production wrapped, locals have bounced around the idea of conducting WILD MOUNTAIN THYME tours, to show off filming locations to visitors and capitalize on the movie’s success.
I love this idea! At their best, films shot on-location should be mutually beneficial ventures for both the production and the community where they’re filmed. This is why we hire local crews, hold casting calls for local talent, and ensure that we’re respectful of the spaces we’re filming in. Hopefully, the people of Crossmolina and Ballina liked us enough to have us back!
While WMT is set in Ireland, it’s a story that has the power to resonate universally. Unrequited love, the girl/boy next door, and nosy families are the stuff that the romantic comedies we all know and love are made of. And if the Irish people who worked with us on this production and gave it life can see themselves in Rosemary, Anthony, Tony, and Aoife, even better.
This film is both a love letter to them, and a call for the rest of the world to embrace the Irish tenets of warmth, community pride, and good humor. When audiences see WMT, I hope they’ll enjoy getting to know these incredible people and this magical country as much as we did. And, they’ll be able to do it without the rain!
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